What’s in That Prayer? The Collect for Seventh Sunday after Pentecost

Here is the oration that the Church prays in the Mass and Office for the seventh Sunday after Pentecost:

Deus, cuius providéntia in sui dispositióne non fállitur: te súpplices exorámus; ut nóxia cuncta submóveas, et ómnia nobis profutúra concédas.

Here is my translation:

O God, whose providence faileth not in its arrangement of all things: we entreat Thee, that Thou banish all that is harmful, and grant all that will benefit us.

Here is the translation from the Divinum Officium site:

O God, Whose providence never fails to set things in order, we humbly beseech You to remove from us whatever is harmful and grant whatever is for our benefit.

The “binariness” of this prayer — its categorizing of things in two exclusive categories — wonderfully connects to the clear message of both the Epistle and the Gospel. In the oration, we ask God’s grace to banish all that is harmful and grant all that is beneficial. This corresponds to Saint Paul’s words in the Epistle (Rom. 6:19-23): “For as you have yielded your members to serve uncleanness and iniquity, unto iniquity; so now yield your members to serve justice, unto sanctification.” The Apostle goes on to speak of being slaves to sin or slaves to justice: similarly binary concepts.

Note that the Apostle uses the imperative mood, and commands his readers to yield their members to serve justice unto sanctification. We pray for grace from the First Cause of all good — the Holy Trinity — but we must cooperate as “secondary causes” in our own salvation. The Church’s life of prayer presumes this cooperation. In the sublime theology of Saint Alphonsus, prayer is the meeting place of God’s grace and our free-willed cooperation. Hence the particular utility of today’s collect.

The Gospel preaching of Our Lord (Matt. 7:15-21) presents us with another set of binary terms: the good tree with its good fruits and the evil tree with its evil fruits. We can only be good and render good fruits if we willfully and lovingly yield our members (our bodily powers as well as our spiritual faculties) to serve God’s justice unto sanctification. And that we can do only as a result of His grace, which we ardently pray for in today’s oration.